What is a double barrel in poker? A double barrel is a bet on the turn made by the same player who bet on the flop. For example, suppose I bet on the flop, you call, and I follow through with another bet (a double barrel) on the turn.
Why is double barreling important? A great double barreling strategy will have an incredibly positive impact on your bottom line. Since the pot has grown (usually by at least double) from the flop, the magnitude of your decisions is amplified.
The flip side of that is that your mistakes will cost you way more money, so it’s crucial you have a battle-tested approach to double barreling.
In the rest of this article, I will share 3 tips to help you improve your strategy when it comes to firing that second barrel.
Tip #1: Aim for a 50/50 split between your value hands and your bluffs on the turn
This tip goes back to poker game theory. If you only bet for value with made hands, your opponents may eventually realize what you’re doing. Should that happen, they can absolute crush you simply by over-folding — only calling/raising your bets when they are very strong.
On the turn, you should aim for a roughly 50/50 split among bluffs and value bets. That’s assuming that you are betting ~75% of the pot — if you bet bigger, you can bluff more often and vice versa (because your opponent will fold more frequently versus bigger bets). You can learn the math behind these numbers in this article.
By betting with a proper bluff-to-value ratio like the 50/50 split I recommend, you will put your opponent in a very tough spot with a lot of their bluff-catchers. This is exacerbated if he starts thinking about the possibility that a triple barrel on the river is coming his way.
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Tip #2: Pay close attention to board texture
Let’s face the truth, humans are not solvers. We are not capable of making a gazillion equity calculations per second to arrive at a perfect, god-like, unbeatable strategy.
Thus, having some heuristics is great for virtually every strategy game, especially time-constrained ones like poker.
As you get started in poker, you learn some very general heuristics like: always bluff with a draw or always value bet with two-pair. These are solid rules-of-thumb that will help you make fewer mistakes.
Over time, however, your strategy should become more complex and your decision about whether or not to double barrel will come down to factors like how your range interacts with the board texture.
To make my point clearer, let’s go over a couple of examples.
This is the background information for both of the following examples:
- You raised preflop from the Button.
- The player in the Big Blind called.
- Your opponent checked and then called your c-bet on the flop.
- You are considering a double barrel on the turn.
The first board is (K♠ 8♥ 8♣) 3♦. Let’s say your rule for bluffing on the turn is something like: double barrel with open-ended straight draws, gutshots, and flush draws.
Do you see the issue with your rule on this particular board?
You would end up bluffing exactly 0% of the time because there are no such draws on this board. Meanwhile, you have a value betting range (strong Kx, 8x, AA) that desperately needs to be balanced with some bluffing hands.
If you remember tip number 1, I said that you need to aim for a 50/50 split between value and bluffs. That’s gonna be pretty tough to accomplish on a board with no draws.
When you encounter spots like this, you need to recognize them for what they are: an opportunity for expansion. Your old rule needs some add-ons. The new version could be something like: double barrel with open-enders, gutshots, and flush draws, but if those hands are not possible, then add hands that have relatively good equity and/or blockers against the calling range.
In this case, hands such as QJ, JT, J9, T9, and T7s would fit the bill. Those hands don’t have much equity, but they do block the strongest hands your opponent can have (Q8/J8/T8/98/87/KQ/KJ/KT).
This makes your strategy much more robust and difficult to play against.
Same situation, different board. This time you’re deciding whether or not to double barrel on (K♠ T♠ 8♣) 7♣.
This is the exact opposite situation as example #1. Now, you have so many draws that, if you were to bet with all of them, they would vastly outnumber your value hands. Playing according to the original rule (“bet all draws”) would be a big mistake. You need to filter out some of the draws.
So, the new rule could be something like: double barrel with open-enders, gutshots, and flush draws, but if there are too many of them and a straight is possible, then only barrel with combo draws (like Q♠ J♠) and draws that block the turned straight (like Q♣ 9♦).
This is not a perfect rule, by any means. Further refinement is needed, but that’s what every great poker player does. Great poker players are constantly refining their strategies, optimizing their set of rules and increasing their understanding of the game. The result is fewer and fewer mistakes being made over time.
Tip #3: Be more selective with your bets when the turn is very good for your opponent’s range
This tip builds off of the previous one, but this time the attention is on how the turn card interacts with your opponent’s range.
If the turn is very favorable for your opponent, you would be wise to be more selective when it comes to betting. That means betting with fewer bluffs and fewer value hands.
For example, suppose you raise from early position and the player in the Big Blind calls.
The flop comes J♥ 7♠ 6♥. Your opponent checks, you bet, and she calls.
The turn is the 7♥ and your opponent checks again.
This turn is much better for your opponent’s range for a couple major reasons:
1. The Big Blind is much more likely to have a 7. Remember, you raised in early position, so you probably never have hands like 75s, T7s, Q7s, and A7o. Meanwhile, the Big Blind can certainly have at least some of those hands.
2. The Big Blind is a bit more likely to have a flush. You can certainly have a flush as well, but your flushes are limited to the very good starting hands (such as A♥ X♥, 9♥ 8♥, or K♥ T♥). The Big Blind can have those very good starting hand flushes too in addition to those more marginal hands that were worth defending from the Big Blind (like Q♥ 8♥ or K♥ 5♥, or 5♥ 3♥).
Because of your newly-turned disadvantage, you should go into a more defensive mode and check back frequently. You can still bet some hands — your very best value hands and some bluffs for balance — but you can’t play nearly as aggressively as you could on a more innocuous turn like the 2♣.
When you reach the turn after betting on the flop, always consider how well that card hits your opponent’s range of hands compared to how well it hits yours. If it hits your range well, you have the green light to amp up the aggression. Otherwise, you need to be ready to slow down.
As usual, I aimed to cover what I thought would be the best investment time-wise for you. This rabbit hole goes deep — very very deep. But with these 3 tips, you now have a general map to guide you whenever you’re considering that second barrel.
That’s all for this article! I hope you learned something new from it and that you liked it. I got a lot of enjoyment out of writing this one! As usual, if you have any questions or feedback please let me know in the comment section down below.
If you play live poker, I highly recommend reading this article series next: The (Stupid-Simple) Golden Rule for Low Stakes Cash
Till’ next time, good luck, grinders!
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